Paul Russell had no idea that he would be walking into a scene straight out of a movie when he stopped by the home of an elderly relative to check on things. In fact, Paul claimed that what he encountered was right out of the Alien movie.
He shone the flashlight into the pitch-black room, illuminating the massive creature lurking in the corner as his heart raced. However, it skittered down the basement stairs with a throaty growl before he could see what it was.
Paul Russell’s distant relative, who was 82 years old, had just left moved out of his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before a mystery illness rendered him unable to care for himself, the man had been living alone.
To better keep an eye on him, his family moved him to a nursing home nearby. Even though moving him out was undoubtedly the best option for the man, his family had no idea that doing so would lead to a series of bizarre incidents.
Surprisingly, the nursing home prohibited animals from being on the grounds. Siam, the man’s adored Siamese cat of 17 years, was regrettably forced to stay behind. Paul jumped at the chance to help at this point.
Self-described animal lovers Paul and his wife already owned a few cats. What’s one more, then? However, Paul would soon discover that Siam wasn’t the only “animal” in that house.
Since he lived on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, the man had been living alone in a continuously deteriorating state for quite some time. Without proper care, his poor cat’s health declined further.
Therefore, Paul anticipated chaos when he decided to check on Siam, as anyone would. But he never expected to walk right into a horror movie.
Paul walked up the driveway, unlocked the door, and flicked the lights on and off. Nothing. He’d have to search the cellar for the breaker… but first things first.
He returned to his car and took out his emergency flashlight. However, it almost dropped to the ground when he shone the light into the corridor.
At first, Paul was taken aback by the smell, but then he glimpsed the sight in the hallway. Trash was piled from floor to ceiling throughout the house. Mountains of damaged furniture, boxes, newspapers, and dishes were piled onto every surface.
Stranger still was the blacked-out windows and odd markings covering the walls.
Paul felt like there were eyes all over him, watching him as he slowly walked through the house. He tried to put the thoughts of snakes, rats, or even worse lurking around.
He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he cast the flashlight’s beam over the carvings on the wall. Who or what was responsible for this? And where had Siam gone?
Upon closer inspection, Paul realized that the marks were scratches carved into the wallpaper. What was going on here?
With his heart in his throat, he wandered along the corridor. He called out softly, “Kitty, kitty.” Then suddenly, a strange feeling overcame him, and his nerves screamed at him to run. He needed to locate Siam as soon as possible so he could leave this place.
As Paul entered the kitchen, he spotted Siam’s food bowl. As he filled it with the cat food he had brought along, he noticed that Siam strangely didn’t come running. He called the cat for a few minutes, but his heart sank when there was still no sign of the cat.
There were too many places to hide in the dark, and he would never be able to find Siam like this. He knew he would have to make his way down to the breaker in the cellar to turn the power on. But before he could even reach the darkened hallway, he heard a noise that sent a shiver right through him.
Paul froze as a screech echoed through the house. Then, he heard a loud thumping noise from the bathroom down the hallway.
He trembled as he willed his legs to move toward the door. He nudged the door open with his foot and ripped back the shower curtain.
To his relief, there was Siam — camped out in the bathroom tub. The little guy was scared and ravenously hungry. Who knows when he last had a decent meal?
Paul began thinking about what he was going to do with Siam, and then he heard another sound coming from the darkness that made his blood run cold.
Paul heard a low scratchy, growl echoing from the room across the hall. But if the cat was in here with him, what was out there making that sound?
At first, he reassured himself that it was probably just a scared raccoon that made its way into the abandoned house — that would explain why Siam was hunkered down in the tub, right? He crept over to the doorway and was met with a sight he’ll never forget.
While most of us would probably just take Siam and run, Paul’s curiosity got the best of him. “I started searching around, and suddenly this huge creature darts out from under the bed and runs down to the cellar, and I thought, ‘What was that?’”
Terrified, Paul dashed straight out of the house. He’d need to muster every ounce of courage he had before going back down into that cellar.
Now with his wife, Jill, by his side, they entered the house again. This time, Paul was prepared. Armed with a trap and flashlights, they crept down the stairs. Then, they spotted it.
“The next day, I went into the creepy old cellar… I’m down there with a flashlight looking — it was almost like a horror movie. And I found her hunkering in the corner…” Paul recalls.
They managed to corner the creature and push it into the trap. Jill stood back, incredulous. She hadn’t believed her husband when he had said that the creature looked dusty and appeared to have multiple legs, but now she had seen it for herself. Just what had they found?
They rushed the alien-looking creature to the vet, hoping for some answers.
At the vet, Paul and Jill were shaken. What could this animal be? Paul speculated that perhaps it was a wild animal he’d never heard of — or a common animal that looked like it had a blanket over it.
The vets had never seen anything like this before, either. Then, they turned the bizarre creature around. What they uncovered had everyone at a loss for words.
As they turned the animal over, they saw the head of a cat – protruding from the many strange “tentacles” that covered its body. Then, it hit them. What they were looking at was a cat! But what had caused it to transform beyond recognition?
After a series of discussions about what the next move should be, the vets decided that the only sensible thing they could do was give the creature anesthesia.
The cat, aptly named Hidey due to its affinity for hiding, was trapped under pounds and pounds of its own matted fur. Sadly, its 82-year-old owner had completely forgotten about Hidey for a very long tim
“Hidey was really overweight, so that makes it harder for [cats] to groom themselves, and that’s when you see matting happen,” Western PA Humane Society Senior Marketing Communications Manager Caitlin Lasky said. But how could they safely remove the cat’s “dreadlocks?”
The vet team was stunned at Hidey’s appearance. “They hadn’t seen anything like that,” Caitlin Lasky, senior marketing communications manager for Western PA Humane Society, said. “Even looking online, I had a hard time finding anything similar, so it’s definitely a unique case.”
There really is only one way to rescue a cat in this condition: you have to shave it all off. But the team couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. After putting Hidey under general anesthesia, they carefully began cutting away at the mass.
“Our Medical team shaved off the pounds of intertwined fur from her body and, needless to say, this cat is feeling so much better now!” read the shelter’s Facebook post. The fur had accumulated up to two pounds in weight!
“Lots of fur. It had to be years of matting for it to get that long.” In fact, Hidey turned out to be not just the hairiest cat in history but also one of the fattest. And now Hidey had an even bigger problem: she had no place to call home.
Thankfully, after Hidey was discharged from the vet hospital, Paul and his wife decided to take both Hidey and Siam in. Both felines now have a forever home with the Russells and instant siblings in the couple’s three other cats and two dogs.
It will take more time to see who Hidey really is, but she’s slowly adjusting to life without pounds of overgrown fur. She may not realize it yet, but she finally has a chance at a happy and healthy life! But could Hidey ever trust humans again?
After years of neglect, it’s clearly going to take some time for her to settle in. “She’s been hiding under the bed for the last couple of days,” Russell said.
“I’ve been dragging her out and holding her, and she purrs a lot. In the last couple of days, she’s climbed out from under the bed on her own and into a cat bed I have. So she’s starting to work her way to see people more.”
“The companionship of a pet can bring many positive benefits to the elderly. However, owning a pet is a large responsibility,” said Dan Rossi, CEO of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Societ
And he also has a warning, as well as some simple advice on what to do in this situation.
“If a family member, friend, or neighbor owns a pet, please help them to make sure there is a support system in place if/when mental faculties begin diminishing,” Dan pleads.
“Also, open-door shelters such as Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Society do not turn any animal away if there are no other options for the pet.”
It will take more time to see who Hidey really is, but she’s slowly adjusting to life without pounds of overgrown fur and starting to come out of her shell. “Other than being standoffish, you hold her, and she starts purring,” Russell adds.
However, Jill thinks there’s much more in store for Hidey in 2018.
“In six months, she’ll be running the house,” Jill says. “And hopefully, she’ll be a little trimmer.” Thank goodness someone had finally realized that Hidey was suffering under all those pounds of fur and had taken her in for professional care.
Hopefully, this story will help prevent other incidents of accidental pet neglect among the elderly.
Although Hidey seemed to enjoy the freedom of his new haircut, he still wasn’t being too friendly towards his other animal brothers and sisters. Paul caught him hissing at the other cats a few times. He was worried that he wouldn’t adjust.
Jill, on the other hand, was hopeful that he would soon feel at home. They were family, after all. Hidey seemed to know that Paula and Jill wanted to help him. He would sometimes let them stroke him or scratch his head. Was this real affection or just attention-seeking?
The animal lovers were doing all they could to try and get Hidey to feel comfortable. They bought him special cat toys to get his attention. He was amused for a while but eventually got bored and walked away.
The worried couple had a new idea. Jill had seen a newspaper advertisement for an animal behavioral specialist. Perhaps this was the answer.
Jill called the animal behavioral specialist to query her moody cat. The specialist told her that she was happy to help and gave her a breakdown of the fees for cat therapy. Jill was eager to begin the classes for Hidey, but she was worried about how they would pay for them.
Paul agreed that it was a great idea but heard Jill’s concerns about payment as well. They already had an extra expense with the nursing home. How could they afford to treat this poor cat too?
That night when they were watching TV, they saw a commercial about Pet Insurance. Jill shouted in delight and said that this was the answer. Paul was excited and sent a query through. Could this be the help they needed?
Paul said that the premiums were quite affordable and that they would be able to get coverage immediately. Jill happily looked for Hidey to tell him the good news.
The next morning, an insurance consultant called Paul to confirm the transaction. Paul agreed and was excited to start his cat’s therapy. They confirmed that the behavioral specialist would come the next day to start Hideys emotional therapy.
Hidey showed great improvement in his character and became more friendly with the other cats. His new adoptive parents were overjoyed that all their fur babies were getting along. They realized that Hidey made their home complete.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.